13.6 Preparing the Child for Adoption


The Cabinet's main focus is ensuring the safety, permanency and well-being of those children who are being placed for adoption. This focus is emphasized by providing services to the child, foster parents and adoptive parents throughout the child's lifetime. Staff should realize that adoption may become the permanency goal for any child who enters care and give optimal consideration to this possibility when selecting the first (best and last) family for the child's placement. Utilizing best practice standards is the primary method of ensuring that the child, the foster parents and the adoptive parents successfully transition through events such as out of home placement, reunification efforts, termination of parental rights, and adoptive placement. The skilled adoption practitioner realizes all parties in the process have endured many losses to achieve their gains e.g. the child's loss of family, friends etc., the foster parent's loss of the child (retention) and the adoptive parent's loss of the "ideal child." Support groups, information regarding adoption issues, financial assistance, and adult adoptee search services all play role in not only facilitating the well-being of the child, but of the entire adoption triad.​

Practice Guidance

  • The SSW, in coordination with service providers such as the child’s therapist, must prepare all parties involved in the adoption process, especially the child. Determining the child's ability to comprehend the adoption process requires a basic understanding of childhood development, e.g. educational, psychological, physical, or special needs. 
  • One (1) of the best ways to prepare children for adoption is the development of a lifebook with the child. ­­­­­­­­ 
  • Most children free for adoption have endured abuse, neglect and abandonment, and their self-esteem is typically very low. When coupled with the fact that virtually all children in care believe they are at fault for their removal, most do not believe they deserve a permanent family. 
  • Many children in care do not know the real reasons why they were removed from their birth family or why they cannot return. Without this information, the child is not likely to accept his permanency goal or commit to the adoption. 
  • Helping the child understand the difference between the types of families and why children move from one (1) to another addresses the temporary nature of foster care. Since a child's sense of time is different from an adult's, the child may not view his placement with a foster family as temporary. 
  • The child's participation in recruitment activities often exposes the child's feelings, fears and misinformation about adoption. These comments or occurrences are opportunities for the SSW to: 
    • Explain to the child who is fearful about being adopted that all adoptive parents must attend classes to learn about adoption and that police records are checked to ensure that prospective parents have not hurt children or each other.
    • Reassure the reluctant older child that he/she does not have to make a decision about adoption now, but that he/she should learn more about it and decide later if he wants to meet a family who is interested in him/her; and 
    • Explain to the child that potential adoptive families want to know how he/she feels or what he/she needs; 
    • Based on age of the child, ask the child how to let families know he/she is available for adoption and compare his ideas to the methods currently in use; 
    • Be positive about his/her ideas and use them if reasonable or possible; 
    • Share with the child that families have been located for other children through the use of various media, recruitment events and activities and that his/her participation in recruitment not only helps him/her, but also helps all children waiting to be adopted; 
    • Help the child understand and accept the potential length of time it may take to find the right family. Frame the discussion in general terms generally understood by the child's age and developmental stage, such as the use of forthcoming holidays or school year; 
    • Coordinate efforts with the assigned KAPE specialist if applicable, and encourage the child to participate in recruitment functions. The KAPE specialist will assist in explaining recruitment methods to the child. 
  • Be sensitive to the child's need for privacy and age related reluctance to have peers know he/her is in foster care and needs to be adopted. This is especially critical for teenagers. 
  • Many foster children were abruptly removed from the birth home and perhaps one (1) or more foster homes. The child needs to be reassured that in adoption the move is planned.​


The SSW:
  1. Explains the following to begin preparing the child for adoption: 
    1. The SSW's role in the adoption process; 
    2. The meaning of adoption; 
    3. The child's relationship to the birth parents, grandparents, siblings, etc; 
    4. The child's right to have a parent; 
    5. The child's relationship to his foster parent and why he will or will not be adopted by the foster parent; 
    6. The adoption recruitment process and how the child will be involved; 
    7. The adoption visitation process; 
    8. The pending placement; and 
    9. Who makes the placement decision; 
  2. Gives the original lifebook to the child once it is completed (or foster or adoptive parents if the child is too young to keep it safely); 
  3. Ensures the lifebook remains with the child if a placement change occurs; 
  4. Tells the child that his/her role is to: 
    1. Select an adoptive family; 
    2. Help him meet the new parent(s); 
    3. Visit; and 
    4. Move into their home; 
  5. Emphasizes the importance of adoption for children who cannot return to their birth family; 
  6. Makes the child an active participant by seeking the child's input on what is important to him in an adoptive family;
  7. Develops and maintains an ongoing dialogue with the child about his adoption plan to help educate the child on the process and to determine what the child knows and feels about adoption; 
  8. Explains that all children have a right to have at least one (1) parent who loves, cares and is available for them; 
  9. Explains the differences between the different types of families (birth, legal, temporary and caretaking) and why children may move from one (1) to another or have more than one (1) type at a time; 
  10. Discusses the choices adults make that determine if a child moves from one (1) type of family to another; 
  11. Emphasizes that children do not cause these changes; 
  12. Explains that adoption is one (1) of several ways a child can enter a family; 
  13. Reinforces that adoption is one (1) way to make sure the child will have a parent who loves, cares for and is permanently available to the child for the remainder of childhood; 
  14. Points out that the goal is for the child to have a permanent family for the rest of the child's life and that family does not end at age eighteen (18) (especially for teenagers who equate age eighteen (18) with being emancipated); 
  15. Helps the child understand that everyone is committed to making the adoption work just like adults have to work to have a successful marriage; 
  16. Explains the reasons why his birth parents will not be parenting him to adulthood, and that it is not his/her fault; 
  17. Explains the birth parents' treatment plan and what efforts were made by the birth parents to achieve their treatment goals, as knowledge of any positive gains will help the child form a more positive identity; 
  18. Helps the child understand the process that occurs when children are removed from their birth parents, including the court process; 
  19. Reframes the lack of parental involvement or gains toward reunification as this may be the birth parents’ way of sanctioning the adoption plan; 
  20. Reframes a voluntary termination of parental rights for the child, as the birth parents' acknowledgment that they could not care for their child and chose adoption to ensure the child would receive proper care; 
  21. Completes the following tasks in order to help ease the transition for the child from foster care to adoption: 
    1. Helps the child to understand the transition from foster child status to adopted child status; 
    2. Assists the non-adopting foster parents in developing an explanation that is credible and understandable by the child;
    3. Coaches the foster parents to convey a concrete "permission message" for the child to do well and move into the adoptive family; 
    4. Explains to the foster parents the importance of their involvement in the adoption process and includes them in all phases of the process; 
    5. Encourages a spirit of cooperation between the adoptive parents and the non-adopting foster parents; 
    6. Encourages post placement contact between the families to aid the child's integration into the adoptive family; and
    7. Contacts the Kentucky Adoption Program Exchange (KAPE) recruiter, or the regional adoption specialist for assistance on working with foster parents during the adoption process; 
  22. Completes the following tasks in order to help a child understand that the move to an adoptive home is planned: 
  23. Gives the child a basic overview of the entire adoption process with emphasis on the visitation and placement components; 1 
  24. Explains to the child how the family was selected and that his input was considered; 
  25. Tells the child that there is family interested in getting to know him; 2 
  26. Encourages the foster parents to tell the child that they like the new family; 
  27. Uses the adoptive family album to initially introduce the child to the family the SSW wants the child to meet; 
  28. Assures the child that the first visit will occur at his foster home or residential facility or where he is the most comfortable;
  29. Tells the child the visits will increase in frequency and duration; 
  30. Reinforces for the child that the SSW will talk to the child, foster parents and adoptive parents about how the visits are going; 
  31. Reassures the child that placement will not happen until he and his new family is determined to be ready by the SSW and the Cabinet; 
  32. Allows and encourages the child to participate in the signing of the placement agreement if age appropriate; and 
  33. Develops a cover story with the child to enable him to explain his adoptive placement to others and informs the foster and adoptive parents. 
  34. The SSW, therapist or resource parent assists the child, if old enough, to develop the lifebook when the child first enters care.


  1. Be concrete with young children. 
  2. ​Older children can have a copy of the visitation agreement and if they attend the pre-placement conference, they can sign it. For younger children, the use of a calendar listing the dates and locations of visits is helpful.